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College Major Choice and the Gender Gap

Basit Zafar

Journal of Human Resources, 2013, vol. 48, issue 3

Abstract: This paper studies how college majors are chosen, focusing on the underlying gender gap. I collect a data set of Northwestern University sophomores that contains their subjective expectations about choice-specific c outcomes, and estimate a model where majors are chosen under uncertainty. Enjoying coursework and gaining parents’ approval are the most important determinants in the choice for both genders. However, males and females differ in their preferences in the workplace, with males caring about the pecuniary outcomes in the workplace much more than females. The gender gap is mainly due to gender differences in preferences and tastes, and not because females are underconfident about their academic ability or fear monetary discrimination. The findings in this paper make a case for policies that change attitudes toward gender roles.

Date: 2013
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Working Paper: College major choice and the gender gap (2009) Downloads
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